Posts Tagged ‘Betsy Fleenor’

2013 Fall Plant Sale: Get to Know the Native Ornamental Grasses

Monday, September 30th, 2013

Get to Know the Native Ornamental Grasses

guest blogger: Betsy Fleenor

Landscaping with ornamental grasses is a popular trend. They offer nesting sites and cover for wildlife, excellent erosion control, unusual texture, and four-season interest.

 A darker side to this trend is the growing realization that the grasses that are the easiest to purchase are rarely native and can be harmfully invasive. This would include pampas grass (Cortaderia selloana), maiden grass (Miscanthus spp.), ribbon grass (Phalaris arundinacea), and fountain grass (Pennisetum spp.).  Maiden grass and fountain grass have made it to the top of some state’s invasive plant lists. 

The alternative is to use native grasses which serve the same function in the landscape, are less invasive and extremely drought resistant. 

Please note that natives grasses, like all plants, need to be sited and used correctly: River oats (Chasmathium latifolium) are well behaved in the shade with average to dry soil. But give it moisture, enriched soil and a bit of sun and it will soon spread beyond its bounds. In a few years Indian grass (Sorghastrum nutans) can seed around. 

For the last couple of years, the Native Plant booth has featured a variety of native grasses at the Fall Sale. Since they are often hard to find, our offering serves as a sampler to introduce them to you. Though our quantities are small, if customers are interested in a large planting of native grasses, we can put them in touch with sources that can readily supply them.

This year we will have the following grasses at our booth:

Andropogon ternarius – Splitbeard Bluestem

Chasmanthium latifolium – River Oats

Chasmanthium sessiliflorum – Longleaf Wood Oats

Eragrostis elliottii – Elliot’s Lovegrass

Muhlenbergia capillaris – Muhly Grass

Panicum virgatum – Switchgrass

Panicum virgatum ‘Shenandoah’ – Shenandoah Switchgrass

Schizachyrium scoparium – Little Bluestem

Sorghastrum elliottii – Weeping Indian Grass

Sporobolus junceus  – Pineywoods Dropseed 

All are in limited quantities so we hope you will shop for them as early in the sale as possible.

A Weed Worth Extra Effort

Wednesday, September 11th, 2013

A Weed Worth Extra Effort

guest blogger: Betsy Fleenor, Native Plant Group

Butterfly Weed (Asclepias tuberose) is one of the most important butterfly plants you can have in your garden. Not only do their bright orange flowers attract a wide variety of butterflies, but milkweeds are the only host plants for the Monarch butterfly. Upon hatching, Monarch caterpillars must eat the leaves of milkweed plants or starve to death.

Milkweeds used to be abundant in fields and along roadsides. But the increasing loss of their habitat – coupled with herbicide spraying along roadsides, has caused numbers to decline just when Monarchs are really struggling.
According to Monarch Watch*, the three lowest overwintering populations of Eastern Monarchs on record have been recorded in the last 10 years.

How can we help? By planting milkweeds in our yards. Their presence gives the remaining Monarchs a chance to successfully complete their life cycle while brightening and beautifying our gardens. 
 

This is where the Birmingham Botanical Gardens Native Plant Group comes into play. As the volunteer group growing the native plants offered at the plant sales, this is a plant we need to feature. We always have some to sell, but only in limited numbers. This is because butterfly milkweed loves summer.
 

At the April sale, the plants haven’t emerged from the ground. In order to hurry them along they must be forced in the greenhouse. But we have had limited success with this method.  To get them looking good in April is quite problematic. Milkweeds don’t like to be rushed. They also have a tendency to rot over the winter when in pots.

No problem – we’ll sell them at the fall sale. Unfortunately, by October, the plants are likely to already be dying back for the winter. This means that some years they have dropped all of their leaves by sale time. It is hard to sell a pot of dirt with a bare stick in it. Other times the leaves they do have are beginning to yellow which makes them look unattractive or diseased to many plant sale shoppers.

Knowing the plants were too important not to get their due, the Natives Group came up a daring idea last spring. Milkweed is in its glory in the summer, the hotter the better. So we bought 400 starter plants in May and nurtured them through the summer. At the end of July, we put out the word.
We offered them to a relatively small group of Birmingham Botanical Gardens volunteers to gauge their interest. Plants were to be ordered ahead of time. Would this trial balloon fly?

Within just two days our 400 plants were snapped up and many more had to be told we had sold out. Running out of plants is a happy problem, but for the sake of the Monarchs, we wish we would have had enough for everyone interested.
 

As we talked to those who ordered the plants, our local butterfly experts and Friends of Birmingham Botanical Gardens staff, we were struck by how much people care about the plight of butterflies and how eager they are to do what they can to help. We have also realized anew that butterfly weed can be quite hard to find at local nurseries and when present, it is often in small quantities.
 

Based on this year’s extremely successful sale, we will plan to repeat the summer butterfly milkweed sale next year, with hopes to have an even larger number of plants available to an even larger target group.

*Monarch Watch – http://www.monarchwatch.org/

To learn more about this year’s Fall Plant Sale, visit www.bbgardens.org/fallplantsale. Proceeds from all plant sales at The Gardens benefits its educational mission, including Discovery Field Trips, which has provided free, science-based programming to Birmingham city schoolchildren for over a decade.

Native Plants Group celebrates Larry Michalove’s birthday

Monday, March 4th, 2013

Native Plants Group celebrates Larry Michalove’s birthday

On February 13, the Native Plants Group celebrated the 80th birthday of one of their long-time members. Larry Michalove is a dedicated volunteer whose cheerful nature and optimistic outlook make him a joy to have as part of the group. Native Plants group leader Betsy Fleenor said, “Larry is one of those people who always makes you feel good. He’s ready with a hug or a corny joke that makes you groan, and is willing to help in any way.” Larry is pictured with his wife, Sybil, who dropped by for the party. 
Larry took a few moments to tell about his life, including the circumstances that resulted in his popular children’s book, “The Four Little Children.” The imaginative stories were originally mailed home as bedtime stories for Larry’s children while he served in the Viet Nam War. From the book jacket, “Larry didn’t write about the war or the 114 combat missions he flew, earning him the Distinguished Flying Cross and 8 air medals. Instead, he wrote tales about Martians and moon people and mermaids and the sea.”
Thanks to Larry for his service to America, his creative writing and humor, dedication to family and his years of service to The Birmingham Botanical Gardens. True to form, he refused to take home his left-over cake, instead leaving it for the gardening staff to enjoy.

Rite of Spring

Monday, February 4th, 2013

Rite of Spring

By: Betsy Fleenor, volunteer 

It happens every spring. The new year dawns, and the new seeds are sown. Always with this goal: grow plants that will be large enough and interesting enough to catch your eye at the spring plant sale. No tender seedlings will do come April. We are looking for robust, healthy plants with a good root system, lots of leaves and we wouldn’t argue about a flower bud or two.

For the volunteers who work with the volunteer propagation groups at The Gardens, work goes on year round preparing the plants for your buying pleasure. But things really start to heat up once the new year arrives. For those growing native plants, it’s time to delve into the rich storehouse of seeds collected from the Kaul Wildflower Garden and pre-treated in various ways. Some are sprinkled, others carefully placed in their soil-filled trays topped with a thin layer of granite chicken grit to improve their chances.

Weeks spent on the mist tables located in the plant sale greenhouse eventually provide the perfect environment for the green miracle. The lifeless, brown seeds are touched with the vital moisture, warmth and light that cause them to germinate.

 At first the specks of green are nearly microscopic. Was that a dot of green I saw or not? Soon eyes adjust to the microenvironment and indeed, that dot was just one of hundreds of barely perceptible green dots. They’re off and running!

As the weeks wear on, first leaves give way to true leaves, and roots start to explore the soil. Soon it’s time to rudely tease them from their seed trays into their first individual pots. Volunteers carefully prick out the most tender, pull apart the more robust, and take them to the next step on their journey from seed to sale.

Volunteers honored at annual Birmingham Botanical Gardens luncheon

Monday, December 17th, 2012

 

(L to R: Director of Library Services Hope Long, Cathy Adams, Volunteer Coordinator Taylor Steele)

Volunteers honored at annual Birmingham Botanical Gardens luncheon

On Thursday, December 13, Birmingham Botanical Gardens held its annual Volunteer Appreciation Luncheon, recognizing the time donated by those that assist in the achievement of The Gardens’ educational mission. Cathy Adams was presented the Ida C. Burns Volunteer of the Year award for her continual service in many areas of the organization and her significant impact on The Gardens. Ann Katholi was awarded the A. Brand Walton, Jr. Unsung Hero of the Year for her independent and “behind the scenes” contributions. Birmingham Audubon Society was recognized as the Birmingham Botanical Gardens Partner of the Year for helping The Gardens to multiply its effort and achieve its mission. Betsy Fleenor was awarded the Birmingham Botanical Gardens Plantperson of the Year for sharing her plant knowledge and skills with other individuals who volunteer. Sallie Lee was awarded Educator of the Year for her educational efforts promoting public knowledge and appreciation of plants, gardens and the environment.

The potluck luncheon was held in Strange Auditorium from 11:30 – 1 p.m. Music was provided by the Crestwood Trio.

(L to R: Betsy Fleenor, Ann Katholi, Sallie Lee, Ty Keith, Helena Uber-Wamble (Keith and Uber-Wamble are with Birmingham Audubon Society))

Native Plant Group Seeks Volunteers

Thursday, July 21st, 2011

Pictured, Left to Right: Peggy Horne, Nancy Nash, Jan Holliday, Betsy Fleenor, Larry Michaelove, Biddy Osbun, Anne Parrish, Bill Burnham, Linda Widner

Native Plants Group Volunteers – WE WANT YOU!

Meeting on Wednesday mornings at 9 am, this group works to produce the thousands of native plants sold at The Gardens’ plant sales. These sales (held in the Spring and Fall) serve as two of the year’s largest fundraisers at The Gardens.

Sessions usually last from 1 ½  to 2 hours. Along the way, we become familiar with a large number of natives and their growing requirements, and enjoy the camaraderie of our fellow gardeners. We meet in the “potting shed” located immediately behind the Conservatory. Our duties change throughout the year, with seed starting, taking cuttings, potting up seedlings and nursery-bought “plugs” and maintaining the plants being our concentration at various times. Other duties include data entry of records, participation in the plant sales, and use of organizational skills. Please wear clothes that are comfortable and that you don’t mind getting dirty. The potting shed tends to be hot in the summer and cool in the winter, so dress accordingly. Volunteers need to be reasonably physically fit to work with this group.

For more information on how you can get involved with The Native Plant Group here at The Gardens, contact Mary-Bestor Grant at 205.414.3962 or mgrant@bbgardens.org

Come go native with us!